Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Plus Review: Android Tablet Excellence on the Go
Editor's Choice: The Tab S8 Plus has almost all of the features of its Ultra linemate but at a size that's better for work and play.
Updated July 25, 2023 10:04 a.m. PT
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Joshua GoldmanManaging Editor / Advice
Managing Editor Josh Goldman is a laptop expert and has been writing about and reviewing them since built-in Wi-Fi was an optional feature. He also covers almost anything connected to a PC, including keyboards, mice, USB-C docks and PC gaming accessories. In addition, he writes about cameras, including action cams and drones. And while he doesn't consider himself a gamer, he spends entirely too much time playing them.
ExpertiseLaptops, desktops and computer and PC gaming accessories including keyboards, mice and controllers, cameras, action cameras and dronesCredentials
More than two decades experience writing about PCs and accessories, and 15 years writing about cameras of all kinds.
The Galaxy Tab S8 Plus is the overlooked middle child of Samsung's latest tablet line but it deserves your attention. Its pricier sibling, the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra, overshadowed the Plus when they were announced in February, mainly because of its huge display. But, while it's tempting to succumb to FOMO and get the highest-end device just to have the best of the best, the extra cost doesn't seem worth it. Instead, consider the more travel-friendly Plus.
The Ultra's display is hard to ignore: It's a 14.6-inch Super AMOLED screen with a 2,960x1,848-pixel resolution at 240 pixels per inch and a 120Hz refresh rate. By comparison, the largest iPad Pro at the moment is 12.9 inches with a 2,732x2,048-pixel resolution at 264ppi. The Tab S8 Plus has a 12.4-inch, 2,800x1,752-pixel Super AMOLED display and a 120Hz refresh rate. It's the smallest of the three, but it's a great display to build a tablet around (or behind, technically).
Watch this: Samsung's Galaxy Tab S8 looks like a promising iPad Pro alternative
Both the Ultra and Plus (and the regular Tab S8 for that matter) run on Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 system-on-chip, and the base models include 8GB of memory and 128GB of internal storage (a microSD slot supports cards up to 1TB as well). The Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra comes in graphite and starts at $1,100 (£999, AU$1,799) while the Tab S8 Plus is available in graphite, silver and pink gold, starting at $900 (£849, AU$1,499).
The additional $200 for the Ultra is justified by the larger display, the larger battery that powers it and a second 12-megapixel front-facing wide-angle camera (as well as an unattractive camera notch to accommodate it). It can be configured with up to 16GB RAM and 512GB of storage -- double what's available for the S8 Plus -- but that's really where the differences end.
Generally speaking, widescreen tablets larger than Tab S8 Plus are too big to comfortably use handheld for long. At nearly 15 inches and 1.6 pounds (726 grams), the Ultra is best used flat on a desk, in a lap or supported by a stand. The 12.4-inch Plus is just small and light enough (at 1.3 pounds, 576 grams) to use in your hands for gaming, reading, streaming video or web browsing. It'll also fit better on a small desk for jotting down notes in class or in a meeting. But, it's also big enough to get some office or school work done.
S Pen included, but little else
Samsung, Apple, Microsoft and others regularly position large tablets as productivity machines when paired with a detachable keyboard. The Tab S8 Plus is certainly marketed as an option for someone looking for a device to handle both work and play, but you won't find that crucial keyboard in the package.
Samsung sent me one of its keyboard covers to test with the Tab S8 Plus. It's comfortable, and I typed this entire review on it. However, as the least expensive Book Cover with a keyboard, the keyboard isn't backlit, there's no trackpad, the case only has one screen position, and the keyboard can't be separated from the back cover to be used as just a stand -- and it's still $110. The two-piece keyboard case with a trackpad is about $150.
Not including a keyboard would be less of an issue if, again, Samsung didn't spend so much time touting this as a tablet for productivity. My suggestion: Look for a bundle or a promotion that includes a keyboard to take full advantage of the Tab S8 Plus.
To Samsung's credit, an S Pen is included for drawing and writing, and it works wonderfully. It conveniently charges when it's magnetically attached to the back but it can also snap securely to the top edge. The soft tip creates just enough drag on the screen that makes it equally comfortable for writing and drawing with little discernible latency. I wouldn't call it pen-on-paper but I did feel like I had more control when shading a drawing for example.
Along with the S Pen, Samsung includes a USB-C cable for data and charging. There's no charger in the box, though, and if you want to use its fastest fast-charging capabilities, you'll need a 45-watt charger. That gets you from zero to full in about an hour and a half. Its large battery lasted 10 hours, 24 minutes on our video streaming test with display brightness and audio at 50%. The Tab S8's battery can also be used to charge up other devices.
(Almost) a laptop replacement
Samsung's DeX interface does give the Tab S8 Plus more multitasking flexibility than plain Android OS. Like Windows, MacOS and Chrome OS, DeX allows you to have multiple apps up on the screen in windows. Not all apps resize well, however, and moving windows around and working in them can be laggy at times.
I was able to write in the Word app side-by-side with Chrome while a YouTube video played in the corner or while chatting over Zoom. Would the experience be better on a $900 Windows or Chrome two-in-one? Yes. And as more Android app support comes to both of those platforms, the need for devices like the Tab S8 Plus gets smaller. That said, Android apps are still going to perform better on this tablet. Also, with DeX, you can connect to an external display through the tablet's USB-C port and push the Tab S8 Plus' desktop experience to a larger display.
Samsung punched up the camera performance on the Tab S8s, too. The Plus has a 12-megapixel ultrawide-angle front-facing camera with intelligent autoframing software that's similar to Apple's Center Stage. The autoframing isn't as quick to respond as Center Stage, but it works and the camera is on the correct side of the tablet. One more handy extra is that you can record both your camera and screen simultaneously. So you can, for instance, present a slide deck while you appear in the corner of the screen to explain the presentation.
Extra value for Galaxy fans
Samsung has pushed to ensure its Galaxy devices work together in the past couple of years, and that continues with these tablets. For example, the Tab S8 Plus can instantly sync content between your Galaxy phone and tablet, and Galaxy Buds can automatically switch between the two as well without needing to go through a pairing process. And now Samsung Galaxy Watch users will be able to sync Samsung Health stats with the Tab S8 to view them on a larger display.
However, the best feature is the option to turn the Tab S8 Plus into a second wireless screen for your Windows laptop. And not just a Samsung Galaxy Book but any Windows 11 laptop will work. Press the Windows key plus K and tap on Second Screen in the tablet's settings panel and the connection happens almost instantaneously. Considering a portable external OLED display can cost hundreds of dollars, having the Tab S8 Plus do it along with everything else really makes the price easier to swallow.
When Samsung announced the Galaxy Tab S8 lineup, it said a lot of people turned to their tablets in the past two years for work, school, gaming and video. And apparently, those people were yearning for larger screens: Sales of large-screen tablets grew 24%, Samsung said, based on analysis from NPD Group. But, the Ultra might be a step too far for most people and, by comparison, the Galaxy Tab S8 Plus is a better size that's just right for work and play.
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